Hold your fire if you think the “Nanny State” has gone too far!
From the desk of John Dicey, Worldwide Director, Allen Carr’s Easyway
A study by Bristol University investigators which indicates that teenagers who watch films showing actors smoking are more likely to take it up is hardly a revelation of epic proportions.
The research which is published in the journal Thorax looked at the potential influence of some of the 360 top US box office films released between 2001 and 2005, including movies like Spider-Man, Bridget Jones, and The Matrix that feature smoking.
There are calls for any new movie containing smoking to receive an “18” rating – a move which is likely to eradicate smoking from mainstream movies. The reason is simple – the movie industry hate mainstream movies getting an “18” rating as it dramatically limits the potential audience/sales.
Before we all cry “foul” and exclaim that the “nanny state has gone mad” we surely have to appreciate that something does need to be done. The movies that were studied were extremely popular and more and more movies continue to feature (in most cases entirely unnecessarily and inexplicably) smoking.
Does it seem an entirely natural assumption to make that smoking might survive well into the 22nd Century? Yet this is what Sigourney Weaver’s character in the 2009 blockbuster “Avatar” appeared to confirm as she puffed away on a cigarette. Is this just lazy characterisation? A hard nosed maverick image clumsily illustrated by the character being a smoker? Sir John Gielgud might have suggested that perhaps the actor should “try acting”!
Or perhaps something a little more sinister is at work here. Avatar had a PG rating and was watched by tens of millions of young teenagers.
So…. somehow smoking, in its exact current form; soft pack, filter, smoke, lighter, et al, make it to the mid-22nd Century? Would the film have been harmed in any way if it had not featured smoking? Certainly not! So let’s make darn sure it doesn’t happen again!
But what about new productions of a historical nature? Those who clamour for freedom of expression in art and the need for absolute realism claim that portraying smoking is essential for a movie set in, for example, 1960s England. But is it really?
We can’t airbrush “all things bad” out of movies – but we do show restraint with regard to non-smoking related issues. Unless they are the main focus of the movie or TV show casual and explicit sexism, xenophobia, or racism seldom feature.
Recent retro UK TV shows such as “Life on Mars” and “Inspector George Gently” might find sexism and almost constant smoking essential to depict the 1960s accurately – but common decency (thank goodness) prevents them from presenting the truly ugly existence of widespread, explicit and aggressive casual racism that was rampant within the British Police Force (and much of the population at large) at that time.
Why is it that these shows only stoop to portraying smoking and sexism leaving the other issues well alone? Why are smoking and sexism essential to the realism of the work yet the other issues are happily omitted? What does this say about the attitudes of those people who are responsible for the arts?
I suspect it’s a combination of lazy writing, direction, and acting fuelled by some kind of determination to keep smoking on our screens. Who knows from where that determination has been born, nurtured, cultivated, sustained, and funded?
For once – the nanny state appears to be trying to do something right.
The latest research, published in the journal Thorax, indicates that adolescents who saw the most films depicting smoking were 73% more likely to have tried a cigarette than those exposed to the least. And they were 50% more likely to be a current smoker.
The Independent reports a Department of Culture, Sports and Media spokesperson saying:
“The Government believes the current arrangements provide sufficient control on the depiction of smoking in films and a total ban would be a disproportionate interference. This action would undermine the credibility, and therefore the quality, of domestically produced films.”
I wonder what they know that we don’t?
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